A Testimony of Art that goes against the norm”The mind changes, the word changes, time doesn’t stay still, history is a verb, it is ongoing, there is no past tense, future tense, history is constant” Hung Liu has said this in an interview. In my mind this epitomizes what her art is about, most of Hung Liu’s artwork; I perceive to be very historical and personal, because most of her artwork comes from her own photographs. In Judgment of Paris (1992, oil on canvas, lacquered wood), Liu turned to antique imagery to present the confusing combination of Eastern and Western standards of beauty and femininity. Even today, the melding of cultures is still a major issue in Asian American Art. I’d like to focus on how she addresses the struggles of being an immigrant, how Hung Liu maintains her cultural traditions in almost all of her artwork but manages to break through the norm and redefine her own “history”.
Hung Liu came to the United States during the 1980’s, which was a rough time to be Asian in the United States. During this time, the US was having a recession and many auto industries were going out of business due to Japanese imports. That didn’t stop the Americans from blaming all Asian cultures in general. Aside from that, it was not too long after the Vietnam War had ended. Overall many factors contributed to the racism targeted against Asian Americans.Regardless, while in the 19th century, when the western artists were actively engaged in art works of their own heritages, there had been extremely few Asian artists stand out to present Asian arts.
By the time that we started to see masses of Chinese painting showing in museums, people began to be aware of the name ‘Hung Liu’ because her artwork was remarkable and impressive due to her Chinese culture background. Hung Liu, thinks that the body image of Chinese woman stands for a strong power. Thus, Hung Liu’s art works become famous for the body images of Chinese women and are widely known by people from all over the world.
Hung Liu is a Chinese-American artist who was born in China in 1948. She attended Beijing Teachers College in 1975 and studied mural paintings at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. However, she ended up transferring to Sichuan Art University and graduated in 1982 with Painting major. In 1984, she immigrated to the U.S with her family. Later on, she got into UC, San Diego University and also majored Art.
At that point of time, she was already proficient at historical photograph and oil painting. Her oil painting can be seen as critiques of Chinese socialist realistic style because of her using of strong Chinese traditional images. Nowadays, Hung Liu’s paintings are massively shown in numerous exhibitions and museums worldwide. Overall, Hung Liu’s body art painting and strong testimony makes her and her artwork memorable to people from all over the world.Known for paintings based on historical Chinese photographs, Hung Liu’s subjects over the years have been prostitutes, refugees, street performers, soldiers, laborers, and prisoners, among others.
As a painter, Liu challenges the documentary authority of historical Chinese photographs by subjecting them to the more reflective process of painting. Much of the meaning of Liu’s painting comes from the way the washes and drips dissolve the documentary images, suggesting the passage of memory into history, while working to uncover the cultural and personal narratives fixed – but often concealed – in the photographic snapshot. Washing her subjects in veils of dripping linseed oil, she both “preserves and destroys the image.” Liu has invented a kind of weeping realism that surrenders to the erosion of memory and the passage of time, while also bringing faded photographic images vividly to life as new, vivid paintings.
She summons the ghosts of history to the present. In effect, Liu turns old photographs into new paintings. This is exactly the medium she uses in “The judgment of Paris” (1992).Perhaps it is because she had gone through such a harsh time during the Chinese culture revolution in China. It is a time, which no one wants to experience once again in their lives because it abandoned all forms of literature and education throughout China. What’s more, the artists are not allowed to spread art information and even not allowed to be on the streets at that time.
Hung Liu was one of them who had to work in labors for a living as an artist. Hung Liu’s background is being revealed behind the “The judgment of Paris”. To a certain extent, it is a relatively successful painting among all of her art works.
Most of Hung Liu’s famous paintings are portraits or images of the naked body of Chinese women, what is generally considered like the body art. They are usually strong images that reveal typical understanding of women and another part of women. The naked woman body tells us that Hung Liu protest against the prejudice towards women. She indicates that men often have prejudice towards women. Thinking women are weak, dull, timid and silly.
According to them, woman plays a weak and subordinate position in society. Women are subordinate of men like wife and husband. These words are pretty harsh and discriminatory. Moreover, it is not true.
That is why Hung Liu had painted a lot of naked girl’s body. She intends to declare that women are not inferior compared to men. They are equal in status. In “The Judgment of Paris”, she achieves this by subjecting the viewer to the gaze of two young Chinese prostitutes although not naked their dress, pose and photograph was in the purpose of pleasing the Western male gaze. She criticizes the influence the western world had on Chinese history but moreover through the title of this piece and the vase; she denounces the European style influencing the Asian Art market and once again, through the myth, women being portrayed as only having value through their beauty, beauty determined by men.Her multifaceted artistic works probes the human condition and confronts issues of culture, identity, and personal and national history.
It is the reason why Hung Liu is so popular and well known by women all around the world as she sways people’s misconception of women. In conclusion, Hung Liu’s paintings are a combination of both ancient and contemporary styles. They all have strong appeals and powerful images to people. No matter it is a prostitute or the naked woman body, she has made it memorable because of its great interpretation beyond the painting. Because of her, Chinese art is prospering not only in Asian countries but also countries across the sea. Her remarkable paintings awaken people’s traditional minds, and she leads us to have a greater understanding on Chinese history, culture and Chinese people.
Therefore, Hung Liu is an important cultural artist who marks Chinese art being discussed and understood by the world.